New in theaters
Two Asian directors – Wong Kar Wai and Hou Hsiao-hsien – step out of their native countries (and languages) to create the melancholic films 'My Blueberry Nights' and 'The Flight of the Red Balloon.'
My Blueberry Nights (PG-13)
The Hong Kong director Wong Kar Wai has an undeservedly high reputation as a master stylist. He's more like a master window dresser. His latest film is a moody blues fantasia about a lovelorn soul, played by Norah Jones in her acting debut, who journeys across America in search of – well, it's not clear exactly. Jones looks lovely but isn't much of an actress. Jude Law is the kindly owner of a cafe who serves as her touchstone. Natalie Portman shows up as a gambler. (What is it with all the gamblers in movies nowadays?) Grade: C – Peter Rainer
The Flight of the Red Balloon (Not Rated)
Juliette Binoche plays a single Parisian mother whose young son (Simon Iteanu) is looked after by a Chinese nanny (Song Fang) who speaks French. Too much of this film is attenuated and vague, but it has moments of deep melancholy. Taiwanese director Hou Hsiao-hsien knows how to cast a spell of loneliness. His film is replete with homages to Albert Lamorisse's great "The Red Balloon." Grade: B+ – P.R.
Nim's Island (PG)
Eleven-year-old Nim (Abigail Breslin) lives on a remote island with her naturalist father (Gerard Butler). While he's away collecting plankton, Nim must deal with storms, an injured leg, and the most dreaded adversary imaginable – tourists. Nim e-mails her favorite action hero, Alex Rover, for help, not realizing that she has actually reached Alex's creator, agoraphobic novelist Alexandra Rover (Jodie Foster). Audiences may find early scenes of father-daughter family life more engaging than the adventures that ensue, but this is a fairly successful attempt at a preteen-friendly entertainment. And how often do we get to see Foster in a comic role? Grade: B– – M.K. Terrell